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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Distortion?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Distortion

An Idealization is Always a Distortion of One's Reality

Sometimes, however, instead of idealizing a particular quality, some people idealize who they truly are, and make the essential self into an ego ideal. People who idealize being authentic, original and spontaneous, for instance, are actually idealizing qualities of who they truly are. However, this idealization does not mean that they are actually being who they truly are. An idealization is always a distortion of one’s reality. Usually, though, a person idealizes a certain quality that he has, and wants to be admired, loved, recognized, and respected for that quality. But as I’ve said, deeper than this wish is the desire for who he simply is, regardless of what he does, to be seen as precious. And there is a deep despair because who he is is not seen as precious, and the ego ideal is one of the compensations for this.

Authenticity and Distortion are Inherent in the Potential of Our Human Soul

As we have seen, our soul reveals its possibilities through its creative dynamism in two basic ways. The first is in an open and free manner, the second through a distorted and constricted process. In the former case, the soul manifests itself in a real and authentic way, while in the latter case, the soul becomes diminished, distorted, and disconnected from its true nature. Both of these experiences (authenticity and distortion) are inherent in the potential of our human soul. It is important to understand specifically and clearly the difference between these two major ways that our experience reveals itself. The most salient feature of this difference is central to our exploration in this book: When our experience is free, and hence authentic, we discover that our soul is in touch with—in fact, inseparable from—true nature. The distorted experience, on the other hand, is characterized primarily by a lack of awareness of this true nature.

Being Identified with a Part of the World

Let’s give a few examples of how being identified with your personality distorts reality and results in suffering. Let’s take the issue of proving yourself in the world, of being independent, on your own, strong, successful, making a place for yourself. That’s a big concern, a major preoccupation. Nearly everyone has this goal. This can be an aim that comes from an essential orientation or a personality orientation. There is a big, big difference. Establishing yourself in the world and being independent means building the personal aspect of Essence. It is an inner accomplishment. It comes from a very deep desire to actualize who you really are. Being who you really are means being free of all the identifications from the past that have built your false sense of identity; it does not depend on what you do in the world. What you do in the world can be an expression of who you are, but it does not define you. When you are your Personal Essence, your own true sense of identity, anything you do will have an essential orientation. You usually think that the job you choose, whatever it is—gardener, physicist, mother—will make you feel who you really are. But that means you are identified with being a part of the world. It means there is a distortion of reality.

Disharmonious Impressions in the Soul

The soul’s retained impressions can also be disharmonious or even antithetical to her true nature, limiting or distorting her openness, creativity, flow, flexibility, and freedom. The retained impressions can become rigid and fixed structures, limiting her capacity for morphogenic transformation by constraining her malleability and her receptivity to the rest of her potential. Rigidity and fixation are elements of a larger category of disharmonious impressions: retained impressions that are disharmonious to her because they are false, inaccurate, and/or distorted reflections of her nature and properties. Distorted impressions create in the soul an opaqueness that obscures her inherent potential for luminosity, blocking the transparency of consciousness.

Distortion in the Body-Image Aspect of Self-Image

So we see that dealing with the superego will at some point expose the identifications that repress the castration complex. Dealing with this issue brings out the specific hole connected with castration, which is a distortion in the body image aspect of the self-image. The hole or deficiency is simply an unconscious body image of having no genitals or no sexuality. Accepting and understanding this feeling and belief of deficiency will bring forth its corresponding essential aspect, which turns out to be the void (space). This essential aspect is the correction of the distortion in the body image. This distortion is really a distortion of space. The void is the experience of oneself, one's essence, as empty space. It is an experience of expansion, spaciousness, openness, and boundlessness. The mind is not bound by the rigid boundaries of the personality's self-image. Its effect on perception is to see things as they are, without distortion. The experience of the genital hole is a distortion of how things are because there is really no hole there. The emerging space erases this distortion.

Exemplifying a Distortion in Perspective

Let's take an example to show the distortion of perspective. The personality can think only of self-esteem as a result of something, usually a result of certain actions and successes. The self-esteem of the individual rises, say, as a consequence of success in professional or social life. For the individual operating on a subtler level of existence, self-esteem rises as a result of living and acting according to one's own principles and convictions. At still deeper levels, self-esteem accrues as a result of being true to one's deepest feelings and stirrings. All this is fine, understandable. However, it is not yet the perspective of essence. From the perspective of essence, that self-esteem is not a result of anything. Self-esteem, when it is real, is the value of essence. And the value of essence is nothing but essence itself in one of its aspects. Value, according to this perspective, is not something we gain; value is our nature. Essence is value. And if we try to get value as a result of something, then this value is not genuine. It is just filling a certain hole, the hole that resulted from the loss of our true value, an important aspect of our essence. In fact, any attempt to get value by excelling in any endeavor, inner or outer, will just cut us off from the true value, the absolute value of essence, where we are value, without this value being attributed to anything. This is not an indictment of attempting excellence. It is separating excellence from the need for value. The correct relation is that excellence results from value and not the other way around.

One's Enneatype Fixation is Due to an Incorrectness or a Distortion in How Reality is Perceived

One’s fixation, then, is due to an incorrectness or a distortion in how reality is perceived. According to the transmitted teaching of the Enneagram, this incorrect view will be corrected if you understand and experience reality through the undistorted perspective of the Holy Idea associated with your ennea-type. This is probably why the Holy Ideas are referred to as “psychocatalyzers” by Ichazo; they catalyze the process of transformation in the soul from identification with ego to identification with Being as who and what one is. This is one way of going about the process of transformation. From the perspective of the Diamond Approach, however, we see that basic trust needs to be re-established through contact with the quality of Living Daylight, and resulting from that, we will spontaneously experience the Holy Ideas and, therefore, see reality objectively. We have seen that as one works through the psychodynamic issues around basic trust, one naturally begins to perceive the Holy Idea of one’s fixation. As the Holy Ideas become understood, we learn to experience and live in reality, with its essential qualities and boundless dimensions. Basic trust opens the higher intellectual center, allowing us the view of the Holy Ideas, which liberates us from the delusions of ego and helps us to establish our consciousness in the unity of Being.

Facets of Unity, pg. 65

Space Challenges and Brings to Consciousness the Various Unconscious Distortions of Body-Image

We see, therefore, that the experience of space corrects the distortions of body-image. The perception of the body, both from outside and inside, becomes objective. Space seems to allow objective perception. In terms of physical reality, it removes distortion. This is the reason that when an individual experiences space while retaining unconscious distortions of body-image, distortions in the perception of physical reality result that are sometimes experienced as spatial hallucinations or disturbances in the perception of body balance. We believe these distortions can be analyzed and seen as the result of body-image distortions pushing toward consciousness, but compounded with the effects of defenses against them. Some experience their bodies as twisted one way or another, or experience a distortion in the proportions of different parts of the body, or experience their posture as different from what it is. What is really happening in those instances—and they do occur in sessions of psychotherapy, especially in body-oriented therapies—is a readjustment in the self-image that is only partially conscious These distortions of body-image happen in the beginning experience of space, when the person is still burdened with many unconscious distortions in body-image and the affects associated with them. What actually happens is that the appearance of space challenges and brings to consciousness the various unconscious distortions of body-image all at once. But the individual, for reasons of defense, cannot tolerate seeing all these distortions, so he experiences only a sense of distortion or disorientation that is not specific enough to clarify the self-image or the affective components associated with the specific distortions.

The Void, pg. 47

The Conditioned Human Soul is a Twisted and Distorted Soul

Animals do not have this extremely malleable and impressionable potential, so they cannot lose their nature in the way we can. Their impressionability is much more limited, so their consciousness cannot be easily structured in ways that are so alien to them. The human soul, however, can end up with only part of her potential in her conscious experience of herself, by developing a structure that excludes the rest. As we will see in chapter 12, ego development happens mostly by structuring the soul in such a way that leaves her animal potential partially accessible, and her essential potential missing. In fact, her animal soul is the dominant element that becomes structured into the ego-self, at the expense of the essential potential. The result is a humanized animal soul who is constantly suffering the deprivations of her essential nature. The conditioned human soul is, then, to put it bluntly, a twisted and distorted soul, and not just an animal soul. This distortion is what accounts for most human excesses, a distortion that twists power into hatred, strength into destructiveness, love into possessiveness, desire into greed, and so on. This is why human beings can become embodiments of evil and destructiveness, even as they have the potential to be saintly, pure, and totally spiritual and selfless.

The Person Who Knows Only Personality is not Aware of how Insensitive and Callous He Is

This leads to an overall desensitization and deadening of the body and its senses and to the narrowing and rigidifying of the mind and its activities. The person who knows only personality is not aware of how insensitive and callous he is. This is because he is not aware of how sensitive and refined he could be. He is not aware of how subtle, delicate, and clear his perceptions and actions could be. From the perspective of essence he is a brute, without sensitivity. The loss of essence, the repression of the subtle organs and capacities, the shutting off and distortion of the subtle and energetic centers, and the overall resulting insensitivity, all lead to a general but devastating loss of perspective. The individual no more knows the point of life, of being, of existence. He no longer knows why he is living, what he is supposed to do, where he is going, let alone who he is. He is in fact completely lost. He can only look at his personality, at the environment that created it, and live according to the standards of his particular society, trying all the time to uphold and strengthen his ego identity. He believes he is not lost because he is always attempting to live up to certain standards of success or performance, trying to actualize the dreams of his personality—yet all the time he is missing the point of it all. It is no more the life of being; it is only the life of the personality, and in its very nature it is false and full of suffering.

There is an Actual Significance to Everything

Everything that is negative is a distortion of something real. It is a misunderstanding of something true. So I'm saying there is a reason, there is an actual significance to everything. It's not all accidents and mistakes; it is possible to understand every single thought, every single image and to find the truth in it. Each image says something, though it might not be obvious. The thought might be a reaction but if you follow the thought back to the original part, through the defenses, you will see some truth.

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